Mothers' Day

I've given and received my fair share of marigold sprouts in paper cups, construction paper art, and burnt toast with superball-textured eggs in May, but I have to tell you that the real Mothers' Day is August 28.

It's traditionally the first full day of school. It's my favorite day of the year, beating out Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Valentine's Day (which has been pretty tense anyway, since the dead roses episode that my husband will never live down). On that date, there is no road rage, no rudeness, no predatory parking lot vultures, no noise at the library, no lines at the ice cream store, no gum wads on the sidewalk, no shrill screams issuing from backyards. It's like being in Stepford and still having your soul.

Mothers waltz down grocery store aisles, picking out soups we like, obscure foods we haven't eaten since last August, meats with no breading, and small pints of Ben & Jerry's for personal consumption (no sharing). We beam at one another with our freshly exfoliated faces, while looking elegant in ironed clothing free of questionable spots. We yield to one another in line, dipping gracefully from the waist, muscles strengthened from a summer of kid hoisting and holding. We smile serenely at one another, eyes dreamy, faces placid and unlined without the aid of Prozac or Valium or expensive high-end cosmetic creams. The store Muzak can once again be heard as it mellifluously fills the air, enhancing vague aromas of assorted produce. Checkout clerks smile and mean it. Checks are written without sudden, jolting lines across them, and no one buys anything from the toy or candy vending machines. The floors are clean.

Later, after lunch, we can make friendship-affirming phone calls without interruptions, drink coffee with grandmothers and beloved neighbors, and walk dogs without having to guard them from whizzing bicycles and rampaging teenage rollerbladers. Gardening brings us closer to God and Mother Nature. Entire chapters of books can be read without interruption. Life is bliss ... Until 2:45 P.M. when it's time to don the Mommy armor of crisp attitude and benevolent dictatorship; we change into washable clothing, roll up our sleeves, tie back our hair, and break out the Rice Krispy treats and cold milk.

Things are never the same again until the next August. Moms wear down, faces get pasty; laundry, dishes, floors, and other chores begin to take precedence again. Part-time jobs are sought and obtained for the school year, shortening available personal time to nothing. Major budget-deflating holidays come and go, leading to stress and wrinkles; doctors' appointments must be kept, snow shoveled, disputes with children's friends and sibling rivalry must be handled. Noses must be wiped, dogs bark, cats get lost, fish die and have to be memorialized, Barbie heads are buried under snowbanks, and Tonka trucks rust.

Sometime during the rest of the year you may see one of us, if you're an early bird, sitting at the kitchen table at 5 A.M., sipping coffee, bathrobe rumpled, hair in full disarray, eyes still sleep swollen, but with beatific smiles upon our faces. We're thinking of next August 28.

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